Turkey played host to round five of the 2020 World Rally Championship, the infamous rough roads have seen plenty of drama over the years, with the rocky gravel stages & searing heat sealing the events reputation as a real carbreaker.
The action got underway on Friday, it was Sebastien Loeb who would set the pace throughout the Friday. Loeb, a three time winner of the event in the past knows the event well, but had never driven the stages on Friday, in the process fending off teammate Thierry Neuville & becoming the oldest overall leader of a WRC event at 46 years old.
Teammate Neuville trailed Loeb in second while Sebastien Ogier rounded out the top three. Ogier’s teammates Elfyn Evans & Kalle Rovanperra were in fourth & fifth positions with Teemu Sunninen in sixth as the first of the Ford’s, while Ott Tanak was in seventh. Tanak ran a more conservatibe pace to gain a road position advantage for the longest leg of the rally on Saturday.
Saturday saw the day open up with Sebastien Loeb leading, but it wasn’t long until Loeb’s advantage was eroded by his rivals having better road positioning for the day. Teammate Neuville & Sebastien Ogier traded fastest times in the morning on Saturday, overhauling Loeb who wasn’t quite able to match their pace.
Ogier, after a strong start to the day began to suffer; First, a puncture and hydraulic problems began to slow the Frenchman in his Toyota Yaris, dropping him down into fourth. Ogier would catch back up as the day wore on, along with Sebastien Loeb which would see the pair tied for the lead on the final stage of the day, with Thierry Neuville right on their tails in third.
Elfyn Evans would enjoy a consistent Saturday, ending the day in fourth, although a puncture stymied Evans’ charge, stopping him from catching the cars ahead of him. Kalle Rovanperra lay in fifth in his Toyota with another strong showing from the young Finn.
Ott Tanak crashed out on the first stage of the day, a steering issue on his Hyundai sending his car into the scenery, forcing him to retire on the spot, the damage too great to carry on, a major blow to the Estonian’s hopes of defending his 2019 crown.
Sunday dawned with everything in place for a spectacular finish to the event, but no one was prepared for the morning’s fearsome Cetibeli stage.
Thierry Neuville & Sebastian Loeb would come to grief. Neuville picked up a puncture and hemorrhaged over a minute, taking him out of contention for victory. Next up it was Loeb’s turn on the wheel of misfortune in the Cetibeli stage. Ogier picked up a puncture, dropping over a minute taking him out of contention as well. It looked like it was going to be an easy victory for Sebastian Ogier, but on the second pass through Cetibeli, his Toyota overheated and expired in the stage.
Elfyn Evans capitalised on the misfortunes of his rivals and inherited the lead. The final powerstage saw Thierry Neuville pick up five bonus points with Tanak picking up four in second, Kalle Rovanperra picking up three while Evans picked up two & Loeb scored the final bonus point.
After a wild ride on the Turkish gravel, it was Elfyn Evans who took victory, outlasting the competition, it also saw Evans take a commanding lead in the championship with just two events to run. Thierry Neuville took second place with Sebastien Loeb rounding off the podium. Kalle Rovanperra finished in fourth & Gus Greensmith took a career best finish of fifth in his Ford Fiesta.
The next round of the championship will take 8th-11th October in Sardinia, until next time, stay safe.
WRC Rally Turkey Results:
- Elfyn Evans
- Thierry Neuville
- Sebastien Loeb
- Kalle Rovanperra
- Gus Greensmith
WRC Drivers Standings:
- Elfyn Evans – 97 points
- Sebastien Ogier – 79 points
- Ott Tanak – 70 points
- Kalle Rovanperra – 70 points
- Thierry Neuville – 65 points
WRC Teams Standings:
- Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT – 174 points
- Hyundai Shell Mobis world rally team – 165 points
- M-Sport Ford world rally team – 101 points